My freshman year at Harding, Jars of Clay's debut album, Jars of Clay, might as well have been included in the student survival packages. In some circles, owning the album was nearly as imperative to salvation as confessing Christ as Lord. (I suppose I was hell-bound then. I never took the trouble to buy the album because it was ubiquitous.)
Prior to college I never had much exposure to Contemporary Christian music. And, frankly, from what I had heard, I didn't want any more. Most of the songs I'd heard were just vacuous, repetitive praise lyrics set to second-rate pop songs. (Sadly, those sort of songs still dominate Christian radio, and CoC's bastardize them into devo songs.) In fact, two of the three all-time most mawkish songs (the other being "My Heart Will Go On") are performed by Christian singers--"Friends" and "Butterfly Kisses." Hold on, I need to go kneel by the toilet for a bit.
Ok, I feel better now. Anyhow, JoC's debut showed me that CC music could actually be good music, with the capacity to move the listener in a way that didn't cause nausea. I'd still place "Worlds Apart" among my "Top 5 Most Convicting CC Songs." Derek Webb's "Wedding Song" easily heads that list. If you've never heard the song, you need to.
Jars of Clay is probably the most influential CC album ever, which is a mixed blessing. While it was certainly a ground-breaking album, it also spawned a myriad of less-talented poseur bands, and pretentious guitar-playing college guys had another way to be cool Christians, wooing girls and praising God.
I don't like the album as much as I used to. I listened to it a few weeks ago for the first time in years, and I couldn't get over how somniferous most of it is. There are some terrific songs--"Like a Child" (but what's with the stupid penny whistle?), "Flood," "Love Song for a Savior," and especially "Worlds Apart"--but a lot of the tracks sound like the same mid-tempo song with different lyrics, which can prove detrimental to staying awake if you're listening to the CD while driving. JoC has expanded their musical repetiore quite a bit since then, and they have a better sense for varying melody and dynamics.
Maybe the flaws of the album convey a more signifcant message than any of the lyrics, though. For all its imperfections, the album has moved listeners and furthered the Lord's kingdom. We, too, as imperfect people can do the same by God's grace.